Three ways institutions can increase gift-giving in 2024

Gordon College realized a 294% return on investment in a four-month payback period after updating its legacy system.

University endowment experienced a positive turnaround in 2023, helping institutions fund invaluable initiatives pertinent to their missions. Despite the uptick, gift-giving fell by 10.7%, according to a NACUBO-Commonfund report. Colleges and universities interested in ramping up their fundraising and donation targets must update their strategies to meet pace with a digitized age, according to a report from Salesforce.

Now may be the perfect time to ramp up fundraising strategies. As the U.S. ekes out of recession scares, some studies have found that households’ purchasing power is returning to pre-inflation levels, USA Today reports. Comparatively, last year’s economic volatility led EAB to guide institutions in managing their expectations on fundraising goals.

Focus on human campaigns, not dollar campaigns

Donors are interested in knowing what their money is going to accomplish rather than the million-dollar goal it will contribute to. Popular campaigns institutions can employ to garner donor interest can focus on student support. Strengthening mental health support capacities and creating dedicated facilities for tutoring, laptop rentals and daycare for students’ children can all signify an institution’s noble aim for students.

While many colleges may already have dedicated student support initiatives, they can be bad about communicating them to the public, undermining the public’s perception of their fundraising goals, said EAB senior director Dr. R. Fleming Puckett.

“Just getting the word out about the great work they’re doing could help find individuals and organizations who would like to be a part of that and feel like they are a part of making a difference in the world,” he said.

When Oklahoma State University updated its email outreach solutions to better connect with donors, it experienced a 44% email open rate and more than doubled its gift revenue.

“We’ve been able to quickly pivot from solicitations to messages of solidarity and sympathy, reinforcing that we’re all part of one big family looking out for one another,” said Amanda Davis, the former associate vice president of Annual Giving and University Programs at the Oklahoma State University Foundation.

More from UB: Facility reinvestment, bogged by inflationary costs, manages upswing in 2024, report

Cultivate consistent engagement

More often than not, alumni love their alma mater. However, institutions rarely cultivate engagement opportunities with their alumni outside of potential fundraising opportunities. When the University of Southern California created an online alumni portal, they saw a 50% increase in alumni community engagement. The service allowed them to connect with each other and with the institutions seamlessly upon graduation.

By keeping alumni engaged, institutions can have an easier time in winning their bid on the next fundraising campaign.

Other ways to cultivate alumni engagement is by hosting professional development webinars and networking events and providing access to online journals and alumni directories.

Choose technology that can scale with your institution’s needs

Old legacy systems that require staff to manually input donor information create busy work and make it harder to track donors. To stay ahead of the game in today’s data-focused landscape, consider obtaining these perks to help your fundraising campaign:

  • Unify all data into one single source
  • The ability to deliver personalized campaigns to alumni
  • Improve giving pages across every platform by analyzing page views, conversion rates, costs per donation, and the average donation amount
  • The ability to integrate other marketing apps
  • Ease change of management and staff training to get up and running quickly

Gordon College realized a 294% return on investment in a four-month payback period after choosing a system with these capabilities. Gift officer productivity increased by 80% and gift-giving rose by 10%.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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